Harry Reid gets it.
Sure, he sometimes disappoints us (see: FOX debate, Nevada). And sometimes he doesn’t go as far as we would like him to go. But he is in a very tough situation – Senate Majority Leader, in pretty much name only. With Johnson still out, and with Lieberman being, well, Lieberman – there is little to no room for “error”. He held the caucus together on the Iraq supplemental funding vote. He has regained the upper hand in the Senate on Iraq – as much as possible at this point.
And most importantly, he has shifted the debate from “just how well the escalation is working” or “how much more money are we going to sink into this lost cause” to ”Keep your whining and moaning up, Mr. Bush and we just may cut off funding altogether".
Do not underestimate this statement.
Not only is the proposed Reid/Feingold bill a huge legislative step, but it is just as huge in the battle to frame the end of the Iraq occupation.
For those who have short memories or think that “if we don’t get out right this minute then the Democrats are just as bad”, just remember a few things:
- A few months ago, the republicans held majorities in both houses of Congress;
- The thought of defunding the occupation wasn’t even a blip on ANYONE’s radar (it was mid January when BarbinMD and I first posted about “tightening the purse strings”, and Senator Feingold first mentioned it a few days later);
- While the public wanted a withdrawal within a year or so, the talk was all about the escalation, as well as the dismissal of the Iraq Study Group’s report by Bush; and
- Nobody, I repeat, nobody outside of us and a very few, were talking about any real hope of ending this debacle any time in the near enough.
Most importantly, in the few short months that the Democrats have been in charge of Congress, they have radically shifted the debate on Iraq from an open ended no-end-in-sight disaster to not just “if” but “when” and “how”. In the process, Bush and the republicans have been backed into a corner and the talk of “defeatist Democrats” is falling on deaf ears, while putting the republicans in the position to either support their failure of a “leader” or to support the public’s desire to find a reasonable and responsible way out of this disaster.
All of this in less than three months.
With Congress going into recess, there will be a good amount of time for this story to unfold and to simmer (along with We the People’s patience). The fact that the US Attorney purge scandal is getting uglier and uglier for the administration and the republicans doesn’t lend any more credence to Bush’s blathering and finger pointing. The oversight is EXACTLY what Americans wanted when they voted the Democrats into power, and will show even more why the republicans can not be trusted.
And heading into the next few weeks, we have headlines like this one and this one and this one from Yahoo, MSNBC and USAToday respectively. Each one makes this out to either be a “battle for the upper hand on Iraq” (guess whose side the American public is on here) or makes The Decider look decidedly petulant.
The body of the articles is even more telling. The first line of the USAToday article says that Bush is “frustrated with the congressional debate over Iraq war spending”. Not a good portrayal of the President, especially when the debate is over something that much of the country is in favor of.
And from the Yahoo article:
President Bush and Congress are wrestling for the upper hand in the Iraq war debate, with neither side willing to back down and a top Democrat saying for the first time he wants to yank money for combat. Bush was expected to speak Tuesday to reporters at the White House on Iraq war funding.
While Bush has remained steadfast in his insistence on keeping U.S. troops inside Iraq in large numbers, he does so without the blessing of voters. Six in 10 Americans say they favor a timetable to remove all troops within six months, and the number grows to 71 percent if all troops are removed within two years, according to recent AP-Ipsos polling.
There is also this article from USAToday with the headline Reid threatens cutting war funds if plan vetoed with the following text:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that he will try to cut off funding for the Iraq war if President Bush rejects Congress' proposal to set a deadline for ending combat.
In recent weeks, the House of Representatives and Senate voted separately to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but set an end date for combat in Iraq. The House proposal would order all combat troops out of Iraq as of Aug. 31, 2008, and the Senate bill would order some troops to leave right away with the non-binding goal of ending combat by March 31, 2008.
Mindful that they do not have enough votes to override a presidential veto, Democrats are considering the next step if Bush rejects their legislation.
Reid, D-Nev., said that if Bush vetoes the emergency war spending bill, he will join Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who has long called for ending the war by denying funding. Reid and others have been reluctant to propose cutting funding because of the potential effects on the troops.
An article from CNN says the following as well:
On Monday, Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, called the funding fight "an uphill battle, but it's the next step in a series of things to try and change the president's policy in Iraq.”
Reid, of Nevada, has joined one of the Democrats' most outspoken war critics, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, in sponsoring a new Iraq bill that would end the majority of war funding after March 31, 2008.
The legislation would permit spending in only three areas: fighting al Qaeda, training Iraqis and protecting the U.S. Embassy and personnel.
Somehow, I don’t think that Americans will be too against the Feingold bill as it does accomplish what needs to be done – especially at this point. ESPECIALLY with there being a civil war that our troops even admit that they have no business being involved in.
Senator Reid knows what he is doing. Getting this discussion to where it currently is from where it was a few months ago is no small feat. To do so and NOT have the mainstream press all over it from the “Democrats want surrender date” slant is even bigger. We are getting closer to the end of the Iraq occupation. It is taking longer than any of us want, but that is not the fault of the Congressional Democratic leadership.
Quite the contrary, it is because of them that we are even in a position where we are now debating the cutting off of Iraq funds and timetables for withdrawal as opposed to how much more money and troops are we throwing into the sinkhole.
The Overton Window has shifted a bit more to the left over the past 24 hours. Let’s keep it moving. But while we are, let’s take note of what Senator Reid has done to help the cause.